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chocspoonI’m no stranger to disasters in the kitchen.  Tart crusts shrink, custards burn, I forget to add eggs to my crepe batter or another essential ingredient to whatever it is that I’m cooking.  Today I cut my finger.  Yesterday I burned my arm taking a gratin dish out of the oven.  But the more I cook, the more I learn.  I understand these accidents are all part of the process, and even the greatest cooks have their share of failures; we know this from dining in restaurants.  Perfectionist that I am, I rarely get anything to come out exactly how I hope.  I want the visual perfection of a Martha Stewart photo spread coupled with the perfect flavours of a dish a la Nigella Lawson.  When things turn out I feel like a million bucks–especially when I didn’t expect them to.

Take tonight.  I was making pots-de-creme and realized at some point that the recipe wasn’t going to work.  The fact that I was able to recognize this beforehand was in itself a triumph; it meant that I’ve come along way since my days of scorched rice and rock-like cupcakes.  I tinkered with the ingredients, cooked the custard in a double-boiler on top of the stove–and saved the day.  Or at least saved my pots-de-creme.  Saving something from being thrown away feels even better than getting it right the first time.

These simple little custards are the perfect antidote to a dreary day, or when you are after the comfort that only a silky, chocolaty dessert can offer you.

 Pots-de-Creme Cafe

Serves 4


3/4 cup half & half

3/4 cup milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 tablespoon instant coffee

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

2 eggs


1) Heat milk and half & half in the top of a double boiler until scalded.  Temper eggs in a small bowl by whisking in a little bit of the milk. Set aside.

2) Add chocolate and whisk until melted. Add cocoa, coffee, and sugar until well combined. Whisk in pinch of salt.

3) Add the eggs and vanilla.  Stir the mixture constantly over medium low heat until thickened, about ten minutes.  Strain into custard cups or ramekins.

4) Cool for 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap. Put the wrap directly onto the custard so a skin doesn’t form.  Set in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving. Garnish with whip cream or a dusting of icing sugar.

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"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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August 2020
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Photos and text copyright 2009 by Darina Kopcok
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